By Rev Seth Kaper-Dale
December 12, 2017
It’s Christmas time. Tis the season for Christians to remember the birth of the Christ.
But it’s more than that. It’s the time of year when Christians remember that Caesar Augustus and King Herod thought they were powerful, and put the entire occupied population on the move for a census that served their needs.
Instead, God had other plans. That selfish and unnecessary census, carried out for either financial purposes or possibly as a way to take a census for military recruiting purposes, led desperately poor people to travel to and fro. It’s what got Mary and Joseph out of Nazareth and down to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, in the hamlet of King David. And Jesus’ humble family situation and miraculous birth, coupled with the narrative of David, helped shape his identity, eventually, as a new kind of king.
Caesar and Herod thought they were winning — and dominating — but God had other plans. The manger scene became a place for poor people to organize and to find hope. That’s what often happens when tyrants think they are winning. God sides with the last and makes them first, God finds sneaking and conniving ways to topple tyrants from their thrones and to motivate the masses.
We have a tyrant running our county right now. It’s been many Christmases since I’ve felt so sure that we are being ruled by a Caesar-Herod type of figure. We are dealing with a maniac emperor-king who is selfish and twisted and through his actions conveys his disregard for his subjects.
But I am not convinced Trump is winning. Every time Trump makes a tyrant-move (which is daily) I am looking for Christ born in a stable. When he calls Jerusalem the capital of Israel I am listening for a Palestinian baby crying out from East Jerusalem. When he does a robocall for a child-molester for Senate I am looking for Mary and Joseph, who live just around the corner from that guy, to be defending the child in the manger from predators.
When he destroys another national park I look for Christ to be born among the rivers and trees. When he blesses another pipeline I am looking for a Christ Child whose life is at risk due to the poison that will be ingested through his mother’s body. When he pushed for a tax plan that will decimate poor people I look for Christ born among those whose lives are taxing — and who now will see less help.
Christ’s manger is not a private place. It is a place for all who are last. It is a place for shepherds — the poorest workers of Jesus’ day. It is a place for magi, traveling in from the East, from nations that had been historic enemies. It is a place for all who feel marginalized and victimized and unwanted by Caesar-August-Herod-Trump.
Trump’s dastardly way in the world is speeding up the process for us to find the manger and to find a Christ-child inside who has a better way of organizing a world.
Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, The Reformed Church of Highland Park
The writer was a Green Party candidate for governor in November